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Human Rights Groups See No improvement in Thailand's Restive South Two Years After Massacre at Mosque

  • Scott Bobb

In Thailand, security has been tightened in several southern provinces on the eve of the anniversary of a clash between security forces and Muslim separatists in which more than 100 people were killed. Two years after the clashes, human rights groups say the situation has not improved, though the Thai government says progress has been made in stabilizing the region.

The representative of the Human Rights Watch group in Thailand, Sunai Phasuk, sees no improvement in southernmost Thailand, where more than 1,000 people have been killed in the past two years in clashes between government troops and Muslim separatists.

"The militants attack on a daily basis," he said. "The government seems to be unable to prevent these militant attacks or arrest anyone or prosecute anyone. So that has eroded confidence of Muslims in the government."

He made the remark on the eve of the second anniversary Friday of clashes in three southernmost provinces in which more than 100 people died.

Suspected Muslim militants seeking to separate the region from predominantly Buddhist Thailand attacked police installations and killed several policemen. Thirty-two men who took refuge in an ancient mosque in Pattani province were killed when security forces attacked.

Six months later, security forces rounded up 1,300 men during a protest in the province of Narathiwat and crammed them into trucks. Eighty-five of them died - mostly from suffocation.

The head of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, Somchai Chomlaor, says charges that government troops used excessive force were investigated, but no action was taken.

"The recommendations made by the independent committee set up by the government, it's never been implemented," he said. "No government officer is disciplined or even prosecuted."

The Thai government says it is making progress in quelling the violence in the south. It says it has detained many separatist leaders and is addressing the deep-seated grievances the population has against the central government.

However, Sunai of Human Rights Watch says the violence continues and a major reason is the high level of impunity in the south.

"Either (whether) militant violence or government-sponsored violence, none (neither) of them have been properly addressed through the Thai legal system. So it is not surprising that rogue officials or militants are still willing to commit violence on a daily basis," he said.

He notes that security officials have taken measures to avoid major incidents that anger the local population. But he says an emergency law imposed last year, which allows authorities to detain people without charge and protects security forces from legal charges, has added to a climate of fear and alienation.

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